President Obama's State of the Union Address Favorably Received by Pharma Industry

Feb 03, 2011

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, delivered last week on Jan. 25, 2011, to the US Congress, was largely well received by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA), and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) each issued statements that offered support for various measures, including those emphasizing job creation, increased economic competitiveness, regulatory reform, and free trade.

Improving US economic competitiveness was an important theme of the President’s speech. “We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time,” said Obama. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform government. That’s how our people will prosper.”

To fulfill that objective, Obama emphasized the need to drive business innovation, including offering governmental support for basic research. He also stressed the importance of improving education, particularly in math and science, improving the country’s infrastructure, doubling the amount of US exports by 2014, encouraging free trade by passing free-trade pacts with Colombia and Panama as well as continuing global trade discussions with Asia. He also called for more action to reduce the federal budget deficit by freezing domestic spending for the next five years, further cuts in domestic spending, and reducing healthcare expenditures, which includes evaluating entitlement programs.

In commenting on the President’s speech, PhRMA President and CEO John Castellani said, “We commend the President for offering an ambitious agenda that focuses on bolstering the economy, job growth, and strengthening our education system to ensure that we attract and retain the world’s best and brightest talent,” in a Jan. 25, 2011, PhRMA press release. “While innovation and American competitiveness were also central themes in the President’s address, we believe that medical innovation specifically will continue to play a crucial role in advancing patient health and spurring economic growth in the US. The President recognized this crucial point, … as he stressed the need for investments in biomedical research.”

BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood also supported the President’s call for greater innovation to drive economic growth. “We commend President Obama for highlighting the need to increase our nation’s global competitiveness and job creation by stimulating investment and research in innovation,” he said in a Jan. 26, 2011, BIO press release. “…There is no industry better poised to meet this challenge than biotechnology. With a strong and predictable patent system, science-based regulatory systems, and appropriate tax policy and incentives, America’s biotechnology sector can help drive substantial job growth in the United States and advance our nation’s competitiveness in the long term…”

GPhA supported the President’s call for lowering the federal budget deficit and reducing healthcare expenditures. “As the President noted, addressing the long-term deficit ‘means further reducing healthcare costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit,’” said GPhA in a Jan. 25, 2011, press release. “Increasing the use of generic drugs has proven over and over again to be the solution to holding down healthcare spending.”

Meanwhile, SOCMA, which represents batch and custom manufacturers, including contract manufacturers of active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates, supported the President’s call for regulatory reform for businesses. “Allowing companies to invest in their businesses to develop new products is key,” said SOCMA President and CEO Lawrence D. Sloan, in a Jan. 25, 2011, SOCMA press release. “Innovation creates opportunity and prosperity while regulation consumes them. SOCMA members are living testament to this circumstance as they manufacture highly specialized products that take years through research and development to produce.”

Sloan also supported the President’s call to pass free-trade agreements. “Congress needs to approve without delay the agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama,” said Sloan. “Opening up more markets to trade not only makes economic sense, it will directly benefit SOCMA members’ unique products and improve their competitiveness.”